West Virginia state Senate candidate Richard Ojeda was badly beaten over the weekend — and not at the ballot box. Ojeda, 45, suffered several bone fractures and lacerations and now needs surgery after an acquaintance brutally attacked him during a cookout Sunday afternoon, just two days before the state’s primary, police said.
The ailing candidate is now hoping to get out of the hospital as soon as possible to keep campaigning while he still can, according to the Herald-Dispatch.
Jonathan Porter, 41, was taken into custody and held on suspicion of malicious assault, according to cops.
West Virginia state Senate candidate Richard Ojeda
In a hospital room interview, Ojeda told NBC News he was at a barbeque in a mountain area about 60 miles southwest of Charleston when Porter asked him for bumper stickers. Ojeda walked away from the cookout to place the stickers on Porter’s car — and all of a sudden, violence erupted.
“That’s all I remember,” said Ojeda, a retired U.S. Army major.
“When I woke up, my head was on a tree stump covered in blood. Everyone was looking at me.”
Richard Ojeta for Senate
Veteran, Richard Ojeda
Porter eventually turned himself in after hiding in the mountains for six hours, police said.
Ojeda said he suffered eight bone fractures, three lacerations on his face and exterior swelling on his head.
Ojeda said he has known Porter since they were kids — but neither he nor police have suggested any motive for the beating.
But the candidate told NBC News he had one theory: “The moment you start asking questions, you become public enemy number one. I’m challenging the powers that be.”
On his campaign Facebook page, Ojeda posted a hospital photo showing his swollen face.
“I am now even more dedicated to the cause. This doesn’t scare me and I don’t quit! This was premeditated and there was a reason the guy did this,” he wrote. “Regardless….if anyone thinks that this will get me to march in line you obviously don’t know me very well.”
On Monday, Ojeda’s mother told reporters her son was in for “a long recovery.”
“He’s swelled out of proportion and the doctors can’t do any of the operations they need this morning,” Florena Ojena said, fighting back tears.
“He’s such a health nut, this is gonna devastate his body. He’ll have to eat his food from a straw.”
She said Porter, the alleged attacker, was like “part of the family” and had known Ojeda “since grade school.”
She accused Porter of harboring jealousy at Ojeda for his political ambitions and other accomplishments.
“My son was an achiever and Jonathan was a loser,” she said.”That’s the only way to explain it.”
Porter’s family could not immediately be reached.
Ojeda is running against incumbent and fellow Democrat Art Kirkendoll in District 7 of the West Virginia Senate. He previously made an unsuccessful bid for a congressional district in 2014.
Kirkendoll issued a statement wishing his opponent well — and condemning the sudden bloodshed.
“I was informed that my opponent was physically assaulted and injured at a political function today. I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned violence,” the statement said.
“It has no place in our political campaigns or in our communities. My and my family’s thoughts and prayers are with my opponent and his family and we wish him a speedy recovery.”